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Stayin’ Alive in Afghanistan

Marquel, TPVs NYTimes Slow Down Section correspondent, was napping, when he had a bad dream and woke up to read U.S. Agrees to Slow Pullout of Troops From Afghanistan.

President Obama made the change at the request of President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan, who is visiting Washington. It is not clear how the slowdown will be accomplished since everyone was ready to leave, people have made plans, and the longer we stay…well, the longer we stay.

Marquel was interested in how you stop an ocean liner like these 9000 troops or so, in mid ocean.

“First,”  said their commander, “everybody’s about face. It’s a general order that’s been issued.”

“What does that mean?” Marquel asked.

“Just what I said. Everybody’s about face,” he said over his shoulder, as he faced the window across the room from the entrance.

“So, wait,” Marquel said, “everybody’s going to be facing backwards?” I asked.

“Exactly. That will slow things up considerably.” He said.

A porter came in, walking backwards, carrying a tray of coffee. He tripped on the rug, knocked into the desk, but saved the coffee. Then he turned away from both of us and tried to pour us two cups he couldn’t see.

“Thank you, dismissed,” said the commander, facing the opposite wall. He saluted it.

The porter walked backwards toward the door, and saluted the coffee.

“I can see that’s really going to slow things up, maybe double your exit time.” Said Marquel.

“More than that, I’d think,” he said, “and there’s more where that’s coming from.”

“Like what?” I asked.

“The old army rule was everything in triplicate. Now everything has to be issued in one hundred copies, signed and countersigned.”

“So all is solved.” I suggested.

“Not exactly. Most of the enlisted men can barely make it to ten.” He worried.

“And the officers?” I asked.

“There’s a problem there. Counting to ten is not a problem but anything higher they assign to an NCO and we’re back where we started at 10.” He said.

“Is that a problem?” I asked.

“Not really. Most of them can make it to ten so they can make ten piles and count ten copies in each. Nothing is beyond the U.S. Army.” He insisted.

“So you’ll be here until the end of the year.” I said, smiling broadly. He didn’t return the smile.

“The backwards stuff and the hundred copies have slowed them down but they have their ways and frankly I’m afraid we need some other delaying tactics.” he said, with his back to me.

“What’s the solution?” I asked.

“We think we’ve got it. An exit interview. It’s working perfectly.” He said.

“What’s the deal?” I asked, truly curious.

“It’s about the laws of war. They are having a terrible time, reviewing and studying in all their spare time.” He said.

“It’s a complex area. I’d have trouble with it I’m sure.” I said.

“It’s only one question and they know what it is but it still seems to stump them.” He said.

“What’s the question?” I asked.

“Simple. Is torture legal?” He told me.

“They can’t answer that?” I asked.

“No not really. They keep alternating between yes and no and eventually give up. They have to come back for a retest.” He said.

“That should give you the delay you need.” I said.

“Unfortunately too much of a good thing. Now it looks like we might be here forever.” He moaned.

He reached for my arm and escorted me out backwards. We missed the door at first, but eventually  found it.


By MARQUEL: Stayin’ Alive in Afghanistan


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